Internet Privacy: Overview and Legislation in the 109th Congress, 1st Session
CRS Report for Congress
Internet Privacy: Overview
and Legislation in the 109 Congress, 1 Session
Updated January 26, 2006
Marcia S. Smith
Specialist in Aerospace and Telecommunications Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Internet Privacy: Overview and Legislation in the 109
Congress, 1st Session
Internet privacy issues encompass several types of concerns. One is the
collection of personally identifiable information (PII) by website operators from
visitors to government and commercial websites, or by software that is surreptitiously
installed on a user’s computer (“spyware”) and transmits the information to someone
else. Another is the monitoring of electronic mail and Web usage by the government
or law enforcement officials, employers, or email service providers.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks intensified debate over the issue of
monitoring by the government and law enforcement officials, with some advocating
increased tools to help them track down terrorists, and others cautioning that
fundamental tenets of democracy, such as privacy, not be endangered in that pursuit.
Congress passed the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56) that, inter alia, makes
it easier for law enforcement officials to monitor Internet activities. That act was
amended by the Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296), loosening restrictions as to
when, and to whom, Internet Service Providers may voluntarily release the content
of communications if they believe there is a danger of death or injury. Some
provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, including two that relate to Internet use, would
have expired on December 31, 2005. Congress passed a brief extension (to February
3, 2006) in P.L. 109-160. Debate over whether civil liberties protections need to be
added if the provisions are to be made permanent is expected to continue in the
second session of the 109th Congress. Revelations that President Bush directed the
National Security Agency to monitor some communications, including e-mails, in the
United States without warrants may affect those deliberations.
The debate over website information policies concerns whether industry self
regulation or legislation is the best approach to protecting consumer privacy.
Congress has considered legislation that would require commercial website operators
to follow certain fair information practices, but the only law that has been enacted
(COPPA, P.L. 105-277) concerns the privacy of children under 13, not the general
public. Legislation has passed regarding information practices for federal
government websites, including the E-Government Act (P.L. 107-347).
The growing controversy about how to protect computer users from “spyware”
without creating unintended consequences is discussed briefly in this report, but in
more detail in CRS Report RL32706. Another issue, identity theft, is not an Internet
privacy issue per se, but is often debated in the context of whether the Internet makes
identity theft more prevalent. For example, Internet-based practices called
“phishing” and “pharming” may contribute to identity theft. Identity theft is briefly
discussed in this report; more information is available in CRS Report RS22082,
CRS Report RL31919, and CRS Report RL32535. Wireless privacy issues are
discussed in CRS Report RL31636.
This is the final edition of this report. It provides an overview of Internet
privacy issues and related laws passed in previous Congresses, and discusses
legislative activity in the first session of the 109th Congress.
In troduction ......................................................1
Internet: Commercial Website Practices................................1
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), P.L. 105-277.......2
FTC Activities and Fair Information Practices.......................3
Advocates of Self Regulation....................................3
Advocates of Legislation........................................4
Internet: Federal Government Website Information Practices...............5
Monitoring of E-mail and Web Usage..................................6
By Government and Law Enforcement Officials......................6
The USA PATRIOT Act....................................7
The 9/11 Commission Report, and Creation of the Privacy and
Civil Liberties Oversight Board...........................9
Government Access to Search Engine Data (e.g. Google).........10
By E-Mail Service Providers: The “Councilman Case”...............11
Identity Theft (Including Phishing and Pharming)........................14
Identity Theft Statistics........................................14
“Phishing” and “Pharming”.....................................15
Legislation in the 109th Congress, 1st Session.......................18
Summary of Internet Privacy-Related Legislation in the 109th Congress, 1st
Appendix A. Internet Privacy-Related Legislation Passed by the 108th
Appendix B. Internet Privacy-Related Legislation Passed by the 107th
List of Tables
Table 1. Bills Introduced in the 109th Congress, 1st Session................19
Internet Privacy: Overview
and Legislation in the 109 Congress, 1
Internet privacy issues encompass several concerns. One is the collection of
personally identifiable information (PII) by website operators from visitors to
government and commercial websites, or by software that is surreptitiously installed
on a user’s computer (“spyware”) and transmits the information to someone else.
Another is the monitoring of electronic mail and Web usage by the government or
law enforcement officials, employers, or e-mail service providers. Another issue,
identity theft, is not an Internet privacy issue per se, but is often debated in the
context of whether the Internet makes identity theft more prevalent. For example,
Internet-based practices called “phishing” and “pharming” may contribute to identity
This report provides an overview of Internet privacy-related issues and related
laws passed in previous Congresses, and discusses legislative activity in the first
session of the 109th Congress. Background information on Internet privacy issues
is available in an archived CRS Report RL30784, Internet Privacy: An Analysis of
Technology and Policy Issues, by Marcia Smith (available from author); and CRS
Report RL31289, The Internet and the USA PATRIOT Act: Potential Implications
for Electronic Privacy, Security, Commerce, and Government, by Marcia Smith, et
Internet: Commercial Website Practices
One aspect of the Internet (“online”) privacy debate focuses on whether industry
self regulation or legislation is the best route to assure consumer privacy protection.
In particular, consumers appear concerned about the extent to which website
operators collect “personally identifiable information” (PII) and share that data with
third parties without their knowledge. Although many in Congress and the Clintonth
Administration preferred industry self regulation, the 105 Congress passed
legislation (COPPA, see below) to protect the privacy of children under 13 as they
use commercial websites. Many bills have been introduced since that time regarding
protection of those not covered by COPPA, but the only legislation that has passed
concerns federal government, not commercial, websites.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA),
Congress, the Clinton Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
initially focused their attention on protecting the privacy of children under 13 as they
visit commercial websites. Not only are there concerns about information children
might divulge about themselves, but also about their parents. The result was the
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), Title XIII of Division C of the
FY1999 Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act,1
P.L. 105-277. The FTC’s final rule implementing the law became effective April
21, 2000 [http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/64fr59888.htm]. Commercial websites and
online services directed to children under 13, or that knowingly collect information
from them, must inform parents of their information practices and obtain verifiable
parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from
children. The Commission adopted a “sliding scale” for complying with the
verifiable consent requirement depending on how the data would be used. That is,
if the information was for internal use only, the verifiable consent could be obtained
from the parent by e-mail, plus an additional step to ensure the person giving consent
is, in fact, the parent. If the website operator planned to disclose the information
publicly or to third parties, a higher standard was set. This sliding scale was set to
expire in 2002 with the expectation that better verification technologies would
become available. However, in 2002, the FTC determined that such technologies
still were not available, and the sliding scale was extended to April 12, 2005. In
2005, the Commission extended it again, and is seeking public comment on how to
proceed, as part of its overall review of the COPPA rule.2
The law also provides for industry groups or others to develop self-regulatory
“safe harbor” guidelines that, if approved by the FTC, can be used by websites to
comply with the law. The FTC approved self-regulatory guidelines proposed by the
Better Business Bureau on January 26, 2001. On June 11, 2003, then-FTC Chairman
Timothy Muris stated in testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee that the FTC
had brought eight COPPA cases, and obtained agreements requiring payment of civil
penalties totaling more than $350,000.3
As required by COPPA, on April 21, 2005, the Commission issued a request for4
public comment on its final rule, five years after the rule’s effective date. Comments
were requested on the costs and benefits of the rule; whether it should be retained,
1 COPPA should not be confused with COPA — the Child Online Protection Act — which
addresses protecting children from unsuitable material, such as pornography, on the Internet.
COPA is discussed in CRS Report RS21328, Internet: Status of Legislative Attempts to
Protect Children from Unsuitable Material on the Web, by Marcia S. Smith.
2 “FTC Seeks Public Comment on Children’s Online Privacy Rule.” FTC press release,
April 21, 2005. See [http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/04/coppacomments.htm]. (Hereafter
cited as FTC Seeks Public Comment on Children’s Online Privacy Rule.)
3 Prepared statement of Timothy Muris, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, p. 10,
available at [http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=807].
4 FTC Seeks Public Comment on Children’s Online Privacy Rule.
eliminated, or modified; and its effect on practices relating to the collection of
information relating to children, children’s ability to access information of their
choice online, and the availability of websites directed to children.
FTC Activities and Fair Information Practices
The FTC conducted or sponsored several surveys between 1997 and 2000 to
determine the extent to which commercial website operators abided by four fair
information practices — providing notice to users of their information practices
before collecting personal information, allowing users choice as to whether and how
personal information is used, allowing users access to data collected and the ability
to contest its accuracy, and ensuring security of the information from unauthorized
use. Some include enforcement as a fifth fair information practice. Regarding
choice, the term “opt-in” refers to a requirement that a consumer give affirmative
consent to an information practice, while “opt-out” means that permission is
assumed unless the consumer indicates otherwise. See archived CRS Report
RL30784, Internet Privacy: An Analysis of Technology and Policy Issues, by Marcia
Smith (available from author), for more information on the FTC surveys and fair
information practices. The FTC’s reports are available on its website
[ h ttp://www.ftc.gov] .
Briefly, the first two FTC surveys (December 1997 and June 1998) created
concern about the information practices of websites directed at children and led to
the enactment of COPPA (see above). The FTC continued monitoring websites to
determine if legislation was needed for those not covered by COPPA. In 1999, the
FTC concluded that more legislation was not needed at that time because of
indications of progress by industry at self-regulation, including creation of “seal”
programs (see below) and by two surveys conducted by Georgetown University.
However, in May 2000, the FTC changed its mind following another survey that
found only 20% of randomly visited websites and 42% of the 100 most popular
websites had implemented all four fair information practices. The FTC voted to
recommend that Congress pass legislation requiring websites to adhere to the four
fair information practices, but the 3-2 vote indicated division within the Commission.
On October 4, 2001, Timothy Muris, who had recently become FTC Chairman, stated
that he did not see a need for additional legislation at that time. (Mr. Muris was
succeeded as FTC Chairman on August 16, 2004 by Deborah Platt Majoras.)
Advocates of Self Regulation
In 1998, members of the online industry formed the Online Privacy Alliance
(OPA) to encourage industry self regulation. OPA developed a set of privacy
guidelines, and its members are required to adopt and implement posted privacy
policies. The Better Business Bureau (BBB), TRUSTe, and WebTrust have
established “seals” for websites. To display a seal from one of those organizations,
a website operator must agree to abide by certain privacy principles (some of which
are based on the OPA guidelines), a complaint resolution process, and to being
monitored for compliance. Advocates of self regulation argue that these seal
programs demonstrate industry’s ability to police itself.
Technological solutions also are being offered. P3P (Platform for Privacy
Preferences) is one such technology. It essentially creates machine-readable privacy
policies through which users can match their privacy preferences with the privacy
policies of the websites they visit. One concern is that P3P requires companies to
produce shortened versions of their privacy policies, which could raise issues of
whether the shortened policies are legally binding, since they may omit nuances and
“sacrifice accuracy for brevity.”5 For more information on P3P, see
[ http://www.w3.org/ P3P/] .
Advocates of Legislation
Consumer, privacy rights and other interest groups believe self regulation is
insufficient. They argue that the seal programs do not carry the weight of law, and
having a policy that protects privacy. The Center for Democracy and Technology
(CDT, at [http://www.cdt.org]) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center
(EPIC, at [http://www.epic.org]) each released reports on this topic. EPIC’s most
recent report, Privacy Self Regulation: A Decade of Disappointment, argues that the
National Do Not Call list, which restricts telemarketing phone calls, demonstrates
that government regulation can be more effective than industry self regulation.
Calling telemarketing a 20th century problem, the report concludes that the FTC has
given self regulation a decade to work in the Internet privacy arena, and it is time for
the agency “to apply the lessons from telemarketing and other efforts to address the
Some privacy interest groups, such as EPIC, also feel that P3P is insufficient,
arguing that it is too complex and confusing and fails to address many privacy
issues. An EPIC report from June 2000 further explains its findings
[ h ttp://www.epic.org/ reports/prettypoorprivacy.html] .
Privacy advocates have been particularly concerned about online profiling,
where companies collect data about what websites are visited by a particular user and
develop profiles of that user’s preferences and interests for targeted advertising.
Following a one-day workshop on online profiling, FTC issued a two-part report in
the summer of 2000 that also heralded the announcement by a group of companies
that collect such data, the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), of self-regulatory
principles. At that time, the FTC nonetheless called on Congress to enact legislation
to ensure consumer privacy vis a vis online profiling because of concern that “bad
actors” and others might not follow the self-regulatory guidelines.
5 Clark, Drew. “Tech, Banking Firms Criticize Limitations of Privacy Standard.”
NationalJournal.com, November 11, 2002.
6 EPIC. “Privacy Self Regulation: A Decade of Disappointment,” by Chris Jay Hoofnagle.
March 4, 2005. [http://www.epic.org/reports/decadedisappoint.pdf], p. 5.
Many Internet privacy bills were considered by the 107th and 108th Congresses.
Other than extending an existing prohibition regarding federal websites (see next
section), none cleared Congress. Several bills were introduced in the first session of
the 109th Congress (see table at end of report).
Internet: Federal Government
Website Information Practices
Under a May 1998 directive from President Clinton and a June 1999 Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum, federal agencies must ensure that
their information practices adhere to the 1974 Privacy Act. In June 2000, however,
the Clinton White House revealed that contractors for the Office of National Drug
Control Policy (ONDCP) had been using “cookies” (small text files placed on users’
computers when they access a particular website) to collect information about those
using an ONDCP site during an anti-drug campaign. ONDCP was directed to cease
using cookies, and OMB issued another memorandum reminding agencies to post
and comply with privacy policies, and detailing the limited circumstances under
which agencies should collect personal information. A September 5, 2000 letter from
OMB to the Department of Commerce further clarified that “persistent”cookies,
which remain on a user’s computer for varying lengths of time (from hours to years),
are not allowed unless four specific conditions are met. “Session” cookies, which
expire when the user exits the browser, are permitted.
At the time, Congress was considering whether commercial websites should be
required to abide by FTC’s four fair information practices. The incident sparked
interest in whether federal websites should adhere to the same requirements. In the
FY2001 Transportation Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-346), Congress prohibited
funds in the FY2001 Treasury-Postal Appropriations Act from being used to collect,
review, or create aggregate lists that include PII about an individual’s access to or use
of a federal website or enter into agreements with third parties to do so, with
exceptions. Similar language has been included in subsequent appropriations bills.
For FY2006, it is Section 832 of the Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Act
Nonetheless, in December 2005, the Associated Press (AP) reported that a
privacy advocate, Daniel Brandt, had discovered that the National Security Agency7
(NSA) was using permanent cookies on its website. The AP quoted an NSA
spokesman as saying that it resulted from a recent software upgrade and the agency
was not aware that permanent cookies were being set. C|NET News.Com reported
a week later that, based on its own investigation, “dozens” of agencies were setting
7 Jesdanun, Anick. NSA Inadvertently Uses Banned Data-Tracking “Cookies” At website.
Associated Press, December 28, 2005, 15:35 (via Factiva).
permanent cookies or “web bugs.”8 The article identified the White House, the Air
Force, and the Treasury Department as examples, and reported that some of the
agencies changed their practices after being contacted, and many seemed to have no
idea that their software was setting cookies.
Section 646 of the FY2001 Treasury-Postal Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-554)
required Inspectors General (IGs) to report to Congress on activities by those
agencies or departments relating to their own collection of PII, or entering into
agreements with third parties to obtain PII about use of websites. Then-Senator Fred
Thompson released two reports in April and June 2001 based on the findings of
agency IGs who discovered unauthorized persistent cookies and other violations of
government privacy guidelines on several agency websites. An April 2001 GAO
report (GAO-01-424) concluded that most of the 65 sites it reviewed were following
The E-Government Act (P.L. 107-347) sets requirements on government
agencies regarding how they assure the privacy of personal information in
government information systems and establish guidelines for privacy policies for
federal websites. The law requires federal websites to include a privacy notice that
addresses what information is to be collected, why, its intended use, what notice or
opportunities for consent are available to individuals regarding what is collected and
how it is shared, how the information will be secured, and the rights of individuals
under the 1974 Privacy Act and other relevant laws. It also requires federal agencies
to translate their website privacy policies into a standardized machine-readable
format, enabling P3P to work (see above discussion of P3P), for example.
Monitoring of E-mail and Web Usage
By Government and Law Enforcement Officials
Another concern is the extent to which electronic mail (e-mail) exchanges or
visits to websites may be monitored by law enforcement agencies or employers. In
the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the debate over law enforcement
monitoring has intensified. Previously, the issue had focused on the extent to which
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with legal authorization, used a software
program, called Carnivore (later renamed DCS 1000), to intercept e-mail and monitor
Web activities of certain suspects. The FBI would install the software on the
equipment of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Privacy advocates were concerned
about whether Carnivore-like systems can differentiate between e-mail and Internet
usage by a subject of an investigation and similar usage by other people. Technical
details of the system were not publicly available, meaning that privacy groups were
unable to independently determine exactly what the system could or could not do,
8 McCullagh, Declan. Government Web Sites Are Keeping an Eye On You. C|NET
News.com, January 5, 2006. Available on the news.com.com website at
[http://news.c o m. c o m/ Go ve r n me n t + W e b + s i t e s + a r e + ke e ping+an+eye +on+you/2100-102
8_3-6018702.html]. Web bugs are very small (i.e., not visible) graphic images placed on
HTML pages or in e-mails that allow third parties to track user behavior.
leading to their concerns. Section 305 of the 21st Century Department of Justice
Appropriations Authorization Act (P.L. 107-273) required the Justice Department to
report to Congress at the end of FY2002 and FY2003 on its use of Carnivore/DCS
1000 or any similar system. EPIC obtained the reports in January 2005 under the
Freedom of Information Act and placed them on its website.9 The reports indicate
that the Justice Department no longer uses Carnivore/DCS 1000, using commercially
available software instead. The Justice Department reported that it used commercial
software to conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance five times in FY2002 and
eight times in FY2003.
The USA PATRIOT Act. Following the terrorist attacks, Congress passed the
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act, P.L. 107-56, which expands law
enforcement’s ability to monitor Internet activities. Inter alia, the law modifies the
definitions of “pen registers” and “trap and trace devices” to include devices that
monitor addressing and routing information for Internet communications. Carnivore-
like programs may now fit within the new definitions. The Internet privacy-related
provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, included as part of Title II, are as follows:
!Section 210, which expands the scope of subpoenas for records of
electronic communications to include records commonly associated
with Internet usage, such as session times and duration.
!Section 212, which allows ISPs to divulge records or other
information (but not the contents of communications) pertaining to
a subscriber if they believe there is immediate danger of death or
serious physical injury or as otherwise authorized, and requires them
to divulge such records or information (excluding contents of
communications) to a governmental entity under certain conditions.
It also allows an ISP to divulge the contents of communications to
a law enforcement agency if it reasonably believes that an
emergency involving immediate danger of death or serious physical
injury requires disclosure of the information without delay. This
section was amended by the Cyber Security Enhancement Act
— see below.
!Section 216, which adds routing and addressing information (used
in Internet communications) to dialing information, expanding what
information a government agency may capture using pen registers
and trap and trace devices as authorized by a court order, while
excluding the content of any wire or electronic communications. The
section also requires law enforcement officials to keep certain
records when they use their own pen registers or trap and trace
devices and to provide those records to the court that issued the
order within 30 days of expiration of the order. To the extent that
Carnivore-like systems fall with the new definition of pen registers
9 See [http://www.epic.org/privacy/carnivore/2002_report.pdf], and
[ ht t p: / / www.epi c .or g/ pr i vacy/ car ni vor e / 2003_r epor t .pdf ] .
or trap and trace devices provided in the act, that language would
increase judicial oversight of the use of such systems.
!Section 217, which allows a person acting under color of law to
intercept the wire or electronic communications of a computer
trespasser transmitted to, through, or from a protected computer
under certain circumstances, and
!Section 224, which sets a four-year sunset period for many of the
Title II provisions. Sections 210 and 216 are excluded from the
sunset. Sections 212 and 217 are not, and therefore will expire on
December 31, 2005. As discussed below, Congress is considering
legislation that would amend this sunset clause, making either more
or fewer sections subject to it.
The Cyber Security Enhancement Act, section 225 of the 2002 Homeland
Security Act (P.L. 107-296), amends section 212 of the USA PATRIOT Act. It
lowers the threshold for when ISPs may voluntarily divulge the content of
communications. Now ISPs need only a “good faith” (instead of a “reasonable”)
belief that there is an emergency involving danger (instead of “immediate” danger)
of death or serious physical injury. The contents can be disclosed to “a Federal, state,
or local governmental entity” (instead of a “law enforcement agency”).
Privacy advocates are especially concerned about the language added by the
Cyber Security Enhancement Act. EPIC notes, for example, that allowing the
contents of Internet communications to be disclosed voluntarily to any governmental
entity not only poses increased risk to personal privacy, but also is a poor security
strategy. Another concern is that the law does not provide for judicial oversight of
the use of these procedures.10 A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on September
Several House and Senate committees held hearings in the first session of the
109th Congress on various provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, and more are
expected in the second session, as Congress debates whether to extend the “sunset
date,” or expiration date, of several provisions of that act. Under Section 224, a
number of sections would have expired on December 31, 2005, including Section
they are permanent).
Several bills were introduced to modify the sunset clause by making temporary
provisions permanent, by making permanent provisions temporary, or by modifying
reporting requirements or otherwise enhancing oversight of how the provisions are
implemented. As December 31, 2005 approached, the issue became very
contentious. The House passed a permanent extension (i.e., it repealed the sunset
clause) in H.R. 3199. The Senate, however, passed only a six-month extension (S.
10 [http://www.epic.org/alert/EPIC_Alert_9.23.html]. See entry under “ Homeland
Security Bill Limits Open Government, and click on hyperlink to EPIC’s February 26, 2002
letter to the House Judiciary Committee.
2167) to allow time for further consideration of concerns by some Senators that more
civil liberties protections are needed. The House did not agree with the Senate
action, and amended S. 2167 so that the extension was only for five weeks (through
February 3, 2006) to ensure that the Congress dealt with the issue early in the second
session. Debate may be influenced by revelations in December 2005 that President
George W. Bush directed the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and
e-mails in the United States without warrants. (For further information on the debate
over warrantless searches, see the CRS general distribution memorandum at this CRS
The 9/11 Commission Report, and Creation of the Privacy and Civil
Liberties Oversight Board. On July 22, 2004, the “9/11 Commission” released
its report on the terrorist attacks.11 The Commission concluded (pp. 394-395) that
many of the USA PATRIOT Act provisions appear beneficial, but that “Because of
concerns regarding the shifting balance of power to the government, we think that a
full and informed debate on the Patriot Act would be healthy.” The Commission
recommended that “The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental
power should be on the executive, to explain (a) that the power actually materially
enhances security and (b) that there is adequate supervision of the executive’s use of
the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties. If the power is granted, there must
be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use.” The Commission
also called for creation of a board within the executive branch “to oversee adherence
to the guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to
defend our civil liberties.” The commissioners went on to say that “We must find
ways of reconciling security with liberty, since the success of one helps protect the
other. The choice between security and liberty is a false choice, as nothing is more
likely to endanger America’s liberties than the success of a terrorist attack at home.
Our history has shown us that insecurity threatens liberty. Yet, if our liberties are
curtailed, we lose the values that we are struggling to defend.”
The 108th Congress passed legislation implementing many of the Commission’s
recommendations. Called the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (S.
2845, P.L. 108-458), Section 1061 creates a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight
Board as part of the Executive Office of the President. According to the bill’s
sponsor, Senator Collins, the Board’s purpose is to “ensure that privacy and civil
liberties concerns are appropriately considered in the implementation of all laws,
regulations, and policies that are related to efforts to protect the Nation against12
terrorism.” It must report to Congress annually on an unclassified basis to the
greatest extent possible. It will be composed of five members, two of which (the
chairman and vice-chairman) must be confirmed by the Senate. All must come from
outside the government to help ensure their independence.
National Journal reported on January 13, 2006 that although the five members
of the Board have been appointed, the chairman and vice chairman have not yet been
11 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11
Commission Report. 585 p. [http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf].
12 Congressional Record, December 8, 2004, p. S11974.
confirmed by the Senate.13 An August 2005 Reuters report cited critics (including
a former 9/11 Commissioner, Members of the House and Senate, and others) as
concluding that the panel is a “toothless, underfunded shell with inadequate support”
from the President.14
H.R. 1310 (Maloney) was introduced in the first session of the 109th Congress
to make a number of changes, including establishing the Board as an independent
agency in the executive branch, instead of part of the Executive Office of the
President; setting out certain qualifications for Board members; and requiring that all
of the Board members be confirmed by the Senate, not just the chairman and vice-
chairman. There was no legislative action on the bill during the first session. As
with debate over the USA PATRIOT Act, this discussion may be influenced by the
controversy over warrantless searches (see above).
Government Access to Search Engine Data (e.g. Google). In January
2006, Internet search engine company Google indicated that it was resisting a Justice
Department subpoena requiring the company to provide the government with data on
searches made by users.15 The Justice Department reportedly is seeking the data to
help it in a court case to uphold the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which was
enacted to protect children using the Internet from objectionable material such as16
pornography. According to various media reports, other search engine companies,
including Yahoo!, MSN, and America Online, did comply with the government’s
request. Although much of the publicity focused on the extent to which the privacy
of Internet users would be undermined if the government could access such data,
some observers pointed out that the data are anonymous, and Google’s response
might be stimulated more by business concerns (e.g., revealing proprietary17
information) than privacy concerns. Nevertheless, public response suggests that
some consumers now worry about what search terms they use, lest the government18
track their activities and draw erroneous conclusions.
13 Friel, Brian. Civil Liberties Board Has Yet To Get Off the Ground. National Journal,
January 13, 2006. Available on the govexec.com website at
[ ht t p: / / www.gove xec.com/ st or y_page .cf m?ar t i c l e i d=33176&dcn=t odays news]
14 Drees, Caroline. “U.S. Civil Liberties Board Struggles Into Existence.” Reuters, August
15 Delaney, Kevin. Google to Buck U.S. on Data Request — Firm Resists Agency’s Efforts
to Obtain Scaled-Back List of Web Sites, Search Queries. Wall Street Journal, January 20,
16 For a discussion of COPA, see CRS Report RS21328, Internet: Status of Legislative
Attempts to Protect Children from Unsuitable Material on the Web, by Marcia S. Smith.
17 Liptak, Adam. In Case About Google’s Secrets, Yours Are Safe. New York Times,
January 26, 2006, p. 1 (via Factiva).
18 Hafner, Katie. After Subpoenas, Internet Searches Give Some Pause. New York Times,
January 25, 2006, p. 1 (via Factiva).
There also is concern about the extent to which employers monitor the e-mail
and other computer activities of employees. The public policy concern appears to be
not whether companies should be able to monitor activity, but whether they should
notify their employees of that monitoring. A 2005 survey of 526 companies by the
American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute found that 76% monitor
Web usage, and 55% retain and review e-mail messages.19 The survey found that
26% of the companies had fired employees for misusing the Internet, and 25% had
fired workers for e-mail misuse. Regarding notice, the survey reported that 80% of
the companies inform workers that they are monitoring content, keystrokes, and time
spent at the keyboard; 82% inform workers that computer files are stored and
reviewed; 86% inform workers that e-mail is monitored; and 89% inform workers
that Web usage is tracked. One criticism is that top level employees may not be
subject to the same monitoring as rank and file workers.20
By E-Mail Service Providers: The “Councilman Case”
In what is widely-regarded as a landmark ruling concerning Internet privacy, the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Massachusetts ruled (2-1) on June 29,
2004 that an e-mail service provider did not violate federal wiretapping statutes when
it intercepted and read subscribers’ e-mails to obtain a competitive business
advantage. The ruling upheld the decision of a lower court to dismiss the case.
The case involved an e-mail service provider, Interloc, Inc., that sold out-of-2122
print books. According to press accounts and the text of the court’s ruling,
Interloc used software code to intercept and copy e-mail messages sent to its
subscribers (who were dealers looking for buyers of rare and out-of-print books) by
competitor Amazon.com. The e-mail was intercepted and copied prior to its delivery
to the recipient so that Interloc officials could read the e-mails and obtain a
competitive advantage over Amazon.com. Interloc Vice President Bradford23
Councilman was charged with violating the Wiretap Act. The court’s majority
19 American Management Association. “2005 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance
Survey.” Press Release, May 18, 2005.
[ ht t p: / / www.amanet .or g/ pr ess/ amanews/ ems05.ht m] .
20 Sandberg, Jared. “Monitoring of Workers is Boss’s Right But Why Not Include Top
Brass?,” Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2005, p. B1 (via Factiva).
21 (1) Jewell, Mark. “Interception of E-Mail Raises Questions.” Associated Press, June 30,
2004, 9:14 pm. (2) Zetter, Kim. “E-Mail Snooping Ruled Permissible.” Wired News, June
30, 2004, 08:40. (3) Krim, Jonathan. “Court Limits Privacy of E-Mail Messages; Providers
Free to Monitor Communications.” Washington Post, July 1, 2004, E1 (via Factiva).
22 U.S. v. Bradford C. Councilman. U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. No. 03-1383.
[ h t t p : / / www.ca1.uscour t s .gov/ pdf .opi ni ons/ 03-1383-01A.pdf ] .
23 The Wiretap Act,18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2522, is Title I of the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act (ECPA), P.L. 99-508. According to Jewell, op. cit., two other defendants —
Alibris, which bought Interloc in 1998, and Interloc’s systems administrator — pleaded
opinion noted that the parties stipulated that, at all times that the Interloc software
was performing operations on the e-mails, they existed in the random access memory
or in hard drives within Interloc’s computer system.
The case turned on the distinction between the e-mail being in transit, or in
storage (and therefore governed by a different law24). The government argued that
the e-mails were copied contemporaneously with their transmission, and therefore
were intercepted under the meaning of the Wiretap Act. Judges Torruella and Cyr
concluded, however, that they were in temporary storage in Interloc’s computer
system, and therefore were not subject to the provisions of the Wiretap Act. They
further stated that “We believe that the language of the statute makes clear that
Congress meant to give lesser protection to electronic communications than wire and
oral communication. Moreover, at this juncture, much of the protection may have
been eviscerated by the realities of modern technology.... However, it is not the
province of this court to graft meaning onto the statute where Congress has spoken
plainly.” (p. 14-15). In his dissent, Judge Lipez stated, conversely, that he did not
believe Congress intended for e-mail that is temporarily stored as part of the
transmission process to have less privacy than messages as they are in transit. He
agreed with the government’s contention that an “intercept” occurs between the time
the author hits the “send” button and the message arrives in the recipient’s in-box.
He concluded that “Councilman’s approach to the Wiretap Act would undo decades
of practice and precedent ... and would essentially render the act irrelevant.... Since
I find it inconceivable that Congress could have intended such a result merely by
omitting the term ‘electronic storage’ from its definition of ‘electronic
communication,’ I respectfully dissent.”25
Privacy advocates expressed deep concern about the ruling. Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF) attorney Kevin Bankston stated that the court had “effectively
given Internet communications providers free rein to invade the privacy of their users
for any reason and at any time.”26 The five major ISPs (AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft,
Comcast, and Yahoo) all reportedly have policies governing their terms of service
that state that they do not read subscribers’ e-mail or disclose personal information
unless required to do so by law enforcement agencies.27 The U.S. Department of
Justice appealed the court’s decision; and several civil liberties filed a “friend of the
court” brief in support of the government’s appeal. In August 2005, the First Circuit
Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision 5-2.28
24 Stored communications are covered by the Stored Communications Act, which is Title II
of ECPA, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2711.
25 U.S. v. Bradford C. Councilman, p. 53.
26 Online Privacy “Eviscerated” by First Circuit Decision. June 29, 2004.
[ h t t p : / / www.ef f .or g/ news/ a r c hi ve s/ 2004_06.php#001658] .
27 Krim, op. cit.
28 McCullagh, Declan. “E-mail Wiretap Case Can Proceed, Court Says.” c|net News.com,
Two bills were introduced in the 108th Congress that would have affected this
debate by amending either the Wiretap Act or the Stored Communications Act.
There was no action on either bill.
In the first session of the 109th Congress, H.R. 3503/S. 936 were introduced to
amend the Wiretap Act to clarify that it applies “contemporaneous with transit, or on
an ongoing basis during transit, through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or
other device or process, notwithstanding that the communication may simultaneously
be in electronic storage.” There was no action on the bills in 2005.
Spyware is discussed in more detail in CRS Report RL32706, Spyware:
Background and Policy Issues for Congress, by Marcia Smith. The term “spyware”
is not well defined. One example of spyware is software products that include, as
part of the software itself, a method by which information is collected about the use
of the computer on which the software is installed. Some products may collect
personally identifiable information (PII). When the computer is connected to the
Internet, the software periodically relays the information back to the software
manufacturer or a marketing company. Some software traces a user’s Web activity
and causes advertisements to suddenly appear on the user’s monitor — called “pop-
up” ads — in response. Such software is called “adware,” and one aspect of the
spyware debate is whether adware should be included in the definition of spyware.
Software programs that include spyware can be sold or provided for free, on a disk
(or other media) or downloaded from the Internet. Typically, users have no
knowledge that spyware is on their computers.
A central point of the debate is whether new laws are needed, or if industry self-
regulation, coupled with enforcement actions under existing laws such as the Federal
Trade Commission Act, is sufficient. The lack of a precise definition for spyware is
cited as a fundamental problem in attempting to write new laws. FTC representatives
and others caution that new legislation could have unintended consequences, barring
current or future technologies that might, in fact, have beneficial uses. They further
insist that, if legal action is necessary, existing laws provide sufficient authority.
Consumer concern about control of their computers being taken over by spyware
leads others to conclude that legislative action is needed.
Utah and California have passed spyware laws, but there is no specific federalth
law regarding spyware. In the 108 Congress, the House passed two bills (H.R. 2929
and H.R. 4661) and the Senate Commerce Committee reported S. 2145. There was
no further action.
Two bills passed the House in the first session of the 109th Congress : H.R. 29
(Bono) and H.R. 744 (Goodlatte). Two bills specific to spyware were introduced in
the Senate: S. 687 (Burns-Wyden), and S. 1004 (Allen). A Senate Commerce
August 11, 2005, 14:30:00 PDT.
Committee hearing on S. 687 was held on May 11, 2005. On November 17, 2005,
the committee ordered reported S. 687, and defeated S. 1004, with committee
Chairman Stevens reportedly saying that he hoped a compromise could be reached
before the issue was debated on the floor.29 Meanwhile, the FTC endorsed a
different bill, S. 1608, at a hearing before a Senate Commerce subcommittee on
October 5, 2005. That bill deals not only with spyware, but with other Internet-
related fraud, including spam. Its focus is enhancing the FTC’s ability to investigate
and prosecute perpetrators who are located abroad or who use foreign intermediaries.
For more information, see CRS Report RL32706, Spyware: Background and Policy
Issues for Congress, by Marcia Smith.
Identity Theft (Including Phishing and Pharming)
Identity theft is not an Internet privacy issue, but the perception that the Internet
makes identity theft easier means that it is often discussed in the Internet privacy
context. The concern is that the widespread use of computers for storing and
transmitting information is contributing to the rising rate of identity theft over the
past several years, where one individual assumes the identity of another using
personal information such as credit card and Social Security numbers (SSNs). The
FTC has a toll free number (877-ID-THEFT) to help victims.30
The extent to which the Internet is responsible for the increase in cases is
debatable. Some attribute the rise instead to carelessness by businesses in handling
personally identifiable information, and by credit issuers that grant credit without
proper checks. More traditional methods of acquiring someone’s personal
information — from lost or stolen wallets, or “dumpster diving” — also are used by
identity thieves. Three high profile incidents that became public in early 2005 where
the security of consumer PII was compromised reinforced existing fears about
identity theft. The companies involved are ChoicePoint, Bank of America, and
LexisNexis. These incidents are described in CRS Report RS22082, Identity Theft:
The Internet Connection, by Marcia Smith.
Identity Theft Statistics
In a 2003 survey for the FTC, Synovate found that 51% of victims knew how
their personal information was obtained by the thief: 14% said their information was
obtained from lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks, or credit cards; 13% said the
personal information was obtained during a transaction; 4% cited stolen mail; and
29 Stables, Eleanor. Panel Approves Slew of Transportation, Spyware and Other Bills in
Markup. CQ.com, November 17, 2005.
30 See also CRS Report RL31919, Remedies Available to Victims of Identity Theft; and CRS
Report RS21083, Identity Theft and the Fair Credit Reporting Act: an Analysis of TRW v.
Andrews and Current Legislation, both by Angie Welborn.
14% said the thief used “other” means (e.g. the information was misused by someone
who had access to it such as a family member or workplace associate).31
Another survey, conducted by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and
Javelin Strategy & Research, was released in January 2005.32 The 2005 Identity
Fraud Survey is based on data collected in 2004 by Synovate using questions that
closely mirrored those used in the 2003 FTC survey, plus several new questions. The
survey found that computer crime accounted for 11.6% of identity theft cases in
2004, compared with 68% from paper sources. It further found that the average loss
for online identity theft was $551 compared to $4,543 from paper sources. In cases
where the perpetrator could be identified, family members were responsible for 32%
of cases; complete strangers outside the workplace for 24%; friends, neighbors, and
in-home employees for 18%; someone at a company with access to personal
information for 13%; someone at the victim’s workplace for 4%; or “someone else”
for 8%. The study concluded that, contrary to popular perception, identity theft is
not getting worse. For example, it reported that the number of victims declined from
10.1 million in 2003 to 9.3 million in 2004, and the annual dollar volume, adjusted
for inflation, is “highly similar” ($52.6 billion) in the 2003 survey and this survey.
On January 25, 2006, the FTC released its most recent data about the top ten
consumer fraud complaints.33 Identity theft represented 37% of the 686,683
complaints filed with the FTC in 2005. Although the total number of ID theft
complaints was higher than in the two previous years (255,565 in 2005 compared
with 246,847 in 2004 and 215,177 in 2004), as a percentage of complaints filed with
the FTC, the 2005 figure was less (37% in 2005 compared with 38% in 2004 and
40% in 2003). Credit card fraud was identified as the most common form of identity
theft (26%), compared with phone or utilities fraud (18%), bank fraud (17%),
employment fraud (12%), government documents/benefits fraud (9%), and loan fraud
“Phishing” and “Pharming”
One method used to obtain PII is called “phishing.” It refers to an Internet-
based practice in which someone misrepresents their identity or authority in order to
induce another person to provide PII. Some common phishing scams involve e-mails
that purport to be from financial institutions or ISPs claiming that a person’s record
has been lost. The e-mail directs the person to a website that mimics the legitimate
business’ website and asks the person to enter a credit card number and other PII so
31 Synovate. “ Federal Trade Commission — Identity Theft Survey Report.” September
32 An abbreviated “complimentary” version of the report is available at
[http://www.javelinstrategy.com/reports/2005IdentityFraudSurveyReport.html]. A Better
Business Bureau press release is at [http://www.bbb.org/alerts/article.asp?ID=565]. The
survey was sponsored Checkfree, Visa, and Wells Fargo & Company, but the report
emphasizes that although those companies were invited to comment on the content of the
questionnaire, they were not involved in the tabulation, analysis, or reporting of final results.
33 FTC. Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data: January - December 2005.
[ h t t p : / / www.consumer .gov/ s ent i n el / pubs/ T op10Fr a ud2005.pdf ] .
the record can be restored. In fact, the e-mail or website is controlled by a third party
who is attempting to extract information that will be used in identity theft or other
crimes. The FTC issued a consumer alert on phishing in June 2004.34 An “Anti-
Phishing Working Group” industry association has been established to collectively
work on solutions to phishing [http://www.antiphishing.org/].
A version of phishing, dubbed “pharming,” involves fraudulent use of domain
names.35 In pharming, hackers hijack a legitimate website’s domain name, and
redirect traffic intended for that website to their own. The computer user sees the
intended website’s address in the browser’s address line, but instead, he or she is
connected to the hacker’s site and may unknowingly provide PII to the hacker.36
The FTC enforces three federal laws that restrict disclosure of consumer
information and require companies to ensure the security and integrity of the data in
certain contexts — Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Fair Credit
Reporting Act (FCRA), and Title V of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. FTC
Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras summarized these laws as they pertain to
identity theft at a March 10, 2005 hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking,
Housing, and Urban Affairs.37 She identified two other laws that are not enforced by
the FTC, but which also restrict the disclosure of certain types of information: the
Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and
Congress also has passed laws specifically regarding identity theft: the 1998
Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act; the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit
Transactions (FACT) Act; and the 2004 Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act.
Those laws are summarized in CRS Report RL31919, Remedies Available to Victims
of Identity Theft, by Angie Welborn. Briefly, the Identity Theft and Assumption
Deterrence Act (P.L.105-318) directed the FTC to establish a central repository for
identity theft complaints, and provide victim assistance and consumer education.
The FACT Act (P.L. 108-159) contains perhaps the most comprehensive
identity theft provisions in federal law. Implementation of that act is discussed in
CRS Report RL32535, Implementation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions
(FACT) Act, by Angie Welborn. Among its identity theft-related provisions, the law:
34 FTC. “How Not to Get Hooked by a ‘Phishing” Scam.” June 2004. [http://www.ftc.gov/
35 For more on domain names, and the DNS, see CRS Report 97-868, Internet Domain
Names: Background and Policy Issues, by Lennard G. Kruger.
36 For more on pharming, see, for example, Delio, Michelle. “Pharming Out-Scams
Phishing.” March 14, 2005
[ h t t p : / / www.wi r e d.com/ n ews/ i n f o st r u ct ur e/ 0,1377,66853,00.ht ml ] .
37 Available at [http://banking.senate.gov/_files/majoras.pdf].
!requires consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to follow certain
procedures concerning when to place, and what to do in response to,
fraud alerts on consumers’ credit files;
!allows consumers one free copy of their consumer report each year
from nationwide CRAs as long as the consumer requests it through
a centralized source under rules to be established by the FTC;38
!allows consumers one free copy of their consumer report each year
from nationwide specialty CRAs (medical records or payments,
residential or tenant history, check writing history, employment
history, and insurance claims) upon request pursuant to regulations
to be established by the FTC;
!requires credit card issuers to follow certain procedures if additional
cards are requested within 30 days of a change of address
notification for the same account;
!requires the truncation of credit card numbers on electronically
!requires business entities to provide records evidencing transactions
alleged to be the result of identity theft to the victim and to law
enforcement agencies authorized by the victim to take receipt of the
records in question;
!requires CRAs to block the reporting of information in a consumer’s
file that resulted from identity theft and to notify the furnisher of the
information in question that it may be the result of identity theft;
!requires federal banking agencies, the FTC, and the National Credit
Union Administration to jointly develop guidelines for use by
financial institutions, creditors and other users of consumer reports
regarding identity theft; and
!extends the statute of limitations for when identity theft cases can be
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act (P.L. 108-275) makes aggravated
identity theft in conjunction with felonies a crime, and establishes mandatory
sentences — two additional years beyond the penalty for the underlying crime, or five
additional years for those who steal identities in conjunction with a terrorist act.39
38 The FTC rules on free credit reports were issued on June 4, 2004 and are available at
[ h t t p : / / www.f t c.go v/ opa/ 2004/ 06/ f r eeannual .ht m] .
39 “Senate Clears Tougher Penalties for Identity Theft in Conjunction with Felony.” CQ
Weekly, June 26, 2004, p. 1561.
At the March 10, 2005 Senate Banking Committee hearing,40 FTC Chairwoman
Majoras discussed the”complicated maze” of laws that governs consumer data,
noting whether particular legal provisions apply depends on the type of company or
institution involved, the type of data collected or sold, and the purpose for which it
will be used. She conceded that it is not clear if data brokers like ChoicePoint come
under the FTC’s jurisdiction, and concluded that additional legislation may be
necessary, particularly regarding notice and security. A witness from the Secret
Service also testified about his agency’s jurisdiction over identity theft crimes.
Legislation in the 109th Congress, 1st Session
Congress continues to consider ways to reduce the incidence of identity theft.
Legislative approaches include strengthening penalties for identity theft or for the
misuse of SSNs;41 increasing regulation of data brokers, such as by requiring them
to notify individuals whose PII has been breached, or to obtain a consumer’s consent
before selling PII; limiting the use of SSNs or allowing individuals to choose an
identifier other than their SSN for Medicare purposes, for example; or making
Despite the widespread attention to these issues, and the introduction of many
bills, no legislation to further address identity theft or to regulate data brokers passed
during the first session of the 109th Congress. Four bills were acted upon in
committee or subcommittee, however (H.R. 4127, S. 1326, S. 1408, and S. 1789).
According to the Wall Street Journal, legislative action stalled because of differing
views among the various stakeholders in the debate.
Consumer groups are pushing for credit protections that financial
institutions oppose. Small banks are arguing with larger ones about who
picks up the ‘reissuing costs’ when credit or debit cards must be replaced.
And everyone with a stake in the issue is debating the ‘notification trigger,’
specifying what breaches require altering customers.42
The markup of H.R. 4127 (Stearns) by the House Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection was spirited, and the
vote split on party lines.43 The Senate Judiciary Committee reported S. 1326
(Sessions) without amendment and without written report on October 20, 2005. By
contrast, the markup of S. 1789 (Specter) by the same committee on October 27,
40 The hearing can be viewed on the committee’s website at
[http://banki ng.senate.gov/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Hearings .Detail&HearingID=142].
41 For more on Social Security numbers, see CRS Report RL30318, The Social Security
Number: Legal Developments Affecting Its Collection, Disclosure, and Confidentiality, by
Kathleen S. Swendiman.
42 Conkey, Christopher. Identity-Theft Bills Stall in Congress. Wall Street Journal,
November 26, 2005, p. A4 (via Factiva).
43 Krim, Jonathan. Parties Split on Data-Protection Bill. Washington Post, November 4,
2005 involved considerable debate.44 The Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee reported S. 1408 (Smith), amended, on December 8, 2005.
See Table 1 for brief descriptions of the bills and associated report numbers.
For more on legislative action, see CRS Report RL31919, Remedies Available
to Victims of Identity Theft, by Angie Welborn.
Summary of Internet Privacy-Related Legislation in
the 109th Congress, 1st Session
The following table provides summary information on Internet privacy-related
legislation introduced in the first session of the 109th Congress. It should be noted
that although some bills have similar titles or intents, the details may vary. For
example, some bills seek to protect “personal information,” while others protect
“personally identifiable information” (PII). Some concern “data,” while others
concern “electronic data.” Definitions may vary, or, in some cases, the FTC is
directed to determine a definition.
Table 1. Bills Introduced in the 109th Congress, 1st Session
Summary, Committee(s) of Referral, and
Bill (Sponsor) Status as of January 26, 2006
Internet Privacy General
H.R. 84Online Privacy Protection Act. Requires the FTC to prescribe
(Frelinghuysen)regulations to protect the privacy of personal information collected
from and about individuals not covered by COPPA. (Energy &
H.R. 1263Consumer Privacy Protection Act. Broad consumer privacy bill
(Stearns)including provisions related to identity theft, regulation of “data
collection organizations,” and a study of the impact on U.S.
interstate and foreign commerce of privacy laws, etc., adopted by
other countries. (Energy & Commerce, International Relations)
H.R. 1310Protection of Civil Liberties Act. Inter alia, makes the Privacy
(Maloney)and Civil Liberties Oversight Board an independent agency, instead
of part of the Executive Office of the President, and specifies certain
qualifications for Board members and requires they be confirmed by
the Senate. (Government Reform, Judiciary, Homeland Security,
H.R. 1526Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE Act). Inter alia,
(Otter)makes Section 216 of the USA PATRIOT Act subject to the sunset
date. (Judiciary, Intelligence)
Summary, Committee(s) of Referral, and
Bill (Sponsor) Status as of January 26, 2006
H.R. 3058FY2006 Transportation-Treasury Appropriations. Continues
(Knollenberg)language in previous appropriations bills prohibiting federal
websites from collecting data about visitors to those websites.
P.L. 109-115Section 933 in House version (passed House June 30, 2005); Section
831 in Senate version (passed Senate October 20, 2005). Sec. 832
in final version, signed into law on November 30, 2005.
H.R. 3199USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act.
(Sensenbrenner)Inter alia, House version repeals the sunset provision of USA
PATRIOT Act, meaning that none of the sections would expire.
S. 1389Senate version, inter alia, enhances reporting requirements for
(Specter)Section 216. Reported from House Judiciary and Intelligence
Committees (H.Rept. 109-174, Pt. I and Pt. II) 7/18/2005; passed
House, amended, July 21, 2005. Passed Senate July 29 after
substituting the language of S. 1389 as reported from Senate
Judiciary Committee (no written report) and further amended.
Conference report (H.Rept. 109-333) adopted House position re
sunset clause. Passed House December 14, 2005. Senate did notth
pass conference report in the first session of the 109 Congress.
Instead, it passed S. 2167, extending the sunset date by six months,
but the House modified that to five weeks (to February 3, 2006).
See S. 2167.
H.R. 3503E-Mail Privacy Act. Amends the Wiretap Act to clarify that it
(Cannon)covers e-mail that is temporarily stored in transit (in response to the
Councilman case). (House Judiciary; Senate Judiciary)
S. 737Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE Act). Inter alia, sets
(Craig)additional requirements regarding use of authorities under Section
S. 2082To extend the sunset provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and
(Sununu)other purposes. Would extend the sunset provisions to March 31,
S. 2167Extends the sunset date for certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT
(Sununu)Act. See also H.R. 3199. The Senate passed S. 2167 on Dec. 21,
2005, extending the sunset date for six months. The House amended
P.L. 109-160S. 2167 to extend the sunset date only for five weeks, to February 3,
2006, to ensure Congress would resume debate early in the second
session. The Senate agreed with the House amendment on Dec. 22,
H.R. 29Spy Act. Requires the FTC to prescribe regulations prohibiting the
(Bono)transmission of spyware programs via the Internet to computers
without the user’s consent, and notification to the user that the
program will be used to collect PII; makes phishing unlawful.
Reported from House Energy and Commerce Committee
(H.Rept. 109-32); passed House May 23, 2005.
Summary, Committee(s) of Referral, and
Bill (Sponsor) Status as of January 26, 2006
H.R. 744Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act. Sets criminal penalties
(Goodlatte)for certain spyware practices. Reported from House Judiciary
Committee (H.Rept. 109-93); passed House May 23, 2005.
S. 687SPY BLOCK Act. Broad anti-spyware bill. Ordered reported
(Burns-Wyden)from Senate Commerce Committee, November 17, 2005.
S. 1004Enhanced Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act. To
(Allen)provide the FTC with the resources necessary to protect Internet
users from spyware. (Commerce)
S. 1608Undertaking Spam, Spyware, and Fraud Enforcement With
(Smith)Enforcers Beyond Borders (U.S. SAFE WEB) Act. To enhance
FTC enforcement against spyware and other Internet-related fraud
(including spam), focusing on cross-border fraud and deception.
Ordered reported from Senate Commerce Committee December
Identity theft/protecting SSNs and other PII
H.R. 82Social Security On-line Privacy Protection Act. Regulates the use
(Frelinghuysen)by interactive computer services of SSNs and related PII. (Energy
H.R. 92Permits Medicare beneficiaries to use an identification number other
(Frelinghuysen)than their SSN in order to deter identity theft. (Ways and Means,
Energy and Commerce)
H.R. 220Identity Theft Prevention Act. Protects the integrity and
(Paul)confidentiality of SSNs, prohibits the establishment of a uniform
national identifying number, and prohibits federal agencies from
imposing standards of identification for individuals on other
agencies or persons. (Ways & Means, Government Reform)
H.R. 1069Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act.* Requires federal
(Bean)agencies, and persons engaged in interstate commerce, in possession
of electronic data containing personal information, to disclose any
unauthorized acquisition of such information; requires financial
institutions to disclose to customers and consumer reporting
agencies any unauthorized access to personal information; and
requires consumer reporting agencies to implement fraud alerts
under certain circumstances. (Energy & Commerce, Government
Reform, Financial Services)
H.R. 1078Social Security Number Protection Act. Regulates the sale and
(Markey)purchase of SSNs. (Energy & Commerce, Ways & Means)
H.R. 1080Information Protection and Security Act. Regulates the conduct
(Markey)of information brokers and the protection of PII held by them.
(Energy & Commerce)
H.R. 1099Anti-Phishing Act. Criminalizes phishing. (Judiciary)
Summary, Committee(s) of Referral, and
Bill (Sponsor) Status as of January 26, 2006
H.R. 1653Safeguarding Americans from Exporting Identification Data
(Markey)(SAFE-ID) Act. Allows U.S. business entities to transmit PII of
U.S. citizens to foreign affiliates or subcontractors in another
S. 810country if that country has adequate privacy protections and the
(Clinton)citizen has been given prior notice and not opted-out; and prohibits
them from transmitting PII to foreign affiliates or subcontractors in
a country without adequate privacy protections unless the U.S.
citizen has opted-in. (House Energy & Commerce; Senate
H.R. 1745Social Security Number and Identity Theft Prevention Act. To
(Shaw)enhance SSN protections, prevent fraudulent misuse of SSNs, and
otherwise enhance protection against identity theft. (Ways &
H.R. 3140Consumer Data Security and Notification Act. To regulate
(Bean)information brokers, enhance information security requirements for
consumer reporting agencies and information brokers, and require
consumer reporting agencies, financial institutions, and other
entities to notify consumers of data security breaches involving
sensitive consumer information. (Financial Services)
H.R. 3374Consumer Notification and Financial Data Protection Act. To
(LaTourette)provide for the uniform and timely notification of consumers whose
sensitive financial personal information has been placed at risk by
a breach of data security, to enhance data security safeguards, and
to provide appropriate consumer mitigation services. (Financial
H.R. 3375Financial Data Security Act. To amend the Fair Credit Reporting
(Pryce)Act to provide for secure financial data. (Financial Services)
H.R. 3501Consumer Access Rights Defense Act. To require financial
(Carson)institutions and financial service providers to notify customers of the
unauthorized use of personal financial information. (Energy &
Commerce, Government Reform, Financial Services)
H.R. 3804Identity Theft Relief Act. To allow a 100% deduction for expenses
(McCarthy)related to a “qualified identity theft” (as defined in the act) on
federal tax returns. (Ways and Means)
H.R. 3997Financial Data Protection Act. To amend the Fair Credit
(LaTourette)Reporting Act to provide for secure financial data. (Financial
H.R. 4127Data Accountability and Trust Act (DATA). Requires reasonable
(Stearns)security policies and procedures to protect computerized data
containing personal information and provide for nationwide notice
of security breaches. (Energy and Commerce) Subcommittee
markup November 3, 2005.
Summary, Committee(s) of Referral, and
Bill (Sponsor) Status as of January 26, 2006
H.R. 4244Regional ID Theft Task Force Act. Provides grants for regional
(Hooley)task forces to more effectively investigate and prosecute identity
theft and other economic crimes. (Judiciary)
S. 29Social Security Misuse Prevention Act. Limits the misuse of
(Feinstein)SSNs and establishes criminal penalties for such misuse.
S. 115Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act.* Requires federal
(Feinstein)agencies, and persons engaged in interstate commerce, in possession
of electronic data containing personal information, to disclose any
unauthorized acquisition of such information. (Judiciary)
S. 116Privacy Act of 2005. Requires the consent of an individual prior to
(Feinstein)the sale and marketing of the individual’s PII. (Judiciary)
S. 472Anti-Phishing Act. Criminalizes phishing. (Judiciary)
S. 500Information Protection and Security Act. Regulates information
(Bill Nelson)brokers and protects individual rights to PII. (Commerce)
S. 751Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act.* Requires federal
(Feinstein)agencies, and persons engaged in interstate commerce, in possession
of data containing personal information to disclose any unauthorized
acquisition of such information. (Commerce)
S. 768Comprehensive Identity Theft Prevention Act. Broad identity
(Schumer)theft prevention bill, including protecting SSNs, assistance to
victims, coordinating international action against identity theft,
notification of information breaches, and establishing an Office of
Identity Theft at the FTC. (Commerce)
S. 1326Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act. Requires federal
(Sessions)agencies and persons in possession of computerized data containing
sensitive personal information to disclose security breaches if it
poses a significant risk of identity theft. Reported from Senate
Judiciary Committee without amendment and without written
report October 20, 2005.
S. 1332Personal Data Privacy and Security Act. To prevent and mitigate
(Specter)identity theft, to ensure privacy, and to enhance criminal penalties
and other protections against security breaches, fraudulent access
and misuse of PII. Read the second time and placed on the
legislative calendar July 1.
S. 1336Consumer Identity Protection and Security Act. To establish
(Pryor)procedures for the protection of consumers from misuse or
unauthorized access to sensitive personal information contained in
private information files maintained by commercial entities engaged
in or affecting interstate commerce and provide for their
enforcement by the FTC. (Commerce)
Summary, Committee(s) of Referral, and
Bill (Sponsor) Status as of January 26, 2006
S. 1408Identity Theft Protection Act. Strengthens data protection and
(Smith)safeguards, requires notification of data breaches, and further
prevents identity theft. Reported from Senate Commerce
Committee December 8, 2005 (S.Rept. 109-203).
S. 1461Consumer Identity Protection and Security Act. To protect
(Shelby)consumers from misuse of, and unauthorized access to, sensitive
personal information contained in private information files
maintained by commercial entities engaged in, or affecting,
interstate commerce, and provide for enforcement of those
procedures by the FTC. (Banking)
S. 1594Financial Privacy Protection Act. To require financial services
(Corzine)providers to maintain customer information security systems and to
notify customers of unauthorized access to personal information.
S. 1789Personal Data Privacy and Security Act. To prevent and mitigate
(Specter)identity theft, to ensure privacy, to provide notice of security
breaches, and to enhance criminal penalties, law enforcement
assistance, and other protections against security breaches,
fraudulent access, and misuse of PII. Reported from Senate
Judiciary Committee without written report November 17,
Source: Prepared by CRS.
Note: PII = Personally Identifiable Information; SSN = Social Security Number.
* Although H.R. 1069, S. 115, and S. 751 have the same title, each is different.
Appendix A. Internet Privacy-Related Legislation
Passed by the 108th Congress
H.R. 2622Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Includes
(Bachus)several provisions related to identity theft, such as setting
requirements on consumer reporting agencies and credit card
P.L. 108-159issuers, requiring truncation of credit card numbers on
electronically printed receipts, and extending the statute of
limitations for when identity theft cases can be brought.
H.R. 1731Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act. Makes aggravated
(Carter)identity theft in conjunction with felonies a crime, and
establishes mandatory sentences.
H.R. 4818FY2005 Transportation, Treasury and General
(Kolbe)Government Appropriations Bill (incorporated into the
FY2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act). Section 633
P.L. 108-447continues prohibition on use of appropriated funds to collect
personal information about visitors to federal websites.
S. 2845Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act.
(Collins)Creates Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Appendix B. Internet Privacy-Related Legislation
Passed by the 107th Congress
H.R. 2458 (Turner)/E-Government Act. Inter alia, sets requirements on
S. 803 (Lieberman)government agencies in how they assure the privacy of
personal information in government information systems and
P.L. 107-347establish guidelines for privacy policies for federal websites.
H.R. 5505Homeland Security Act. Incorporates H.R. 3482, Cyber
(Armey)Security Enhancement Act, as Section 225. Loosens
restrictions on ISPs, set in the USA PATRIOT Act, as to when,
P.L. 107-296and to whom, they can voluntarily release information about
H.R. 221521st Century Department of Justice Authorization Act.
(Sensenbrenner)Requires the Justice Department to notify Congress about its
use of Carnivore (DCS 1000) or similar Internet monitoring
H.R. 3162USA PATRIOT Act. Expands law enforcement’s authority to
(Sensenbrenner)monitor Internet activities. See CRS Report RL31289 for how
the act affects use of the Internet. Amended by the Homeland
P.L. 107-56Security Act (see P.L. 107-296).